tv [untitled] September 30, 2011 7:31am-8:01am EDT
be un. low and welcome to cross talk i'm peter lavelle the united nations the global body in search of a mission often derided as incompetent and ineffective the u.n. is also accused of being a fig leaf protecting and extending the interests of the rich powerful west well few call for its demise most see the need for drastic reform at the u.n. to serve the interests of all.
across the united nations i'm joined by ruth wedgwood in washington she's director of international law and organizations program at john hopkins school of advanced international studies in new york we have thomas weise he is presidential professor of political science at the city university of new york's graduate center is also author of what's wrong with united nations and how to fix it and in birmingham we crossed him and i started pretty he is the c.e.o. of the cordoba foundation right folks this is crosstalk that means you can jump in anytime you want and i very much encourage it but first marcia every time the united nations is mentioned it's never a dull moment especially when it comes to its flaws one of the largest international organization founded to facilitate world peace and uphold humanitarian causes the united nations has run up an ample record of criticism over sixty six year history mira craddick inefficiency failure to avert conflicts as well as deployed city and disproportionate influence over decision making are only a few of the charges being made against it. from the dark for crisis to the
genocide in rwanda and the tragedy at srebrenica the organization has time and again allowed human atrocities to happen on its watch. indeed the un's record reflects one shocking failure after another even in the organizations earliest days the un's founders created a world body based on a noble idea standing up to aggression preserving international peace and defending human rights and other fundamental principles but it is now clear that the un simply doesn't work the most striking example of what many see as an inherent flaw of the u.n. is the lack of proportionate representation at the security council where power is most concentrated comprising five permanent members with leader rights the security council is often accused of being selective in which issues it chooses to address especially the recent votes on humanitarian intervention to paraphrase george orwell in animal farm some civilians are more equal than others additionally the newly emerging economic powers of the east and south are questioning whether the security council adequately reflects recent socio economic realities where european
countries have long ago lost their preeminence stature un detractors have long been calling to disband the world body for reasons of its relevance yet the organization has been able to survive all criticism and perhaps not the least because of a lack of any better alternative back to you peter thank you very much for that marsha and it's a fine go to you first what would be your most important contribution evaluating the value of the united nations today and i'm thinking all the way from the end of the cold war to today and i'm sure you'll mention something about iraq. well i mean there are there's much to talk about but let's go back to the very founding charter of the united nations we the people of the world that very famous line that all this off and let's talk about that charter and then compare it to where we are today and how much of that charter with all its noble high quite esteemed quite respectable aims and objectives how much of those have actually been achieved how
much of them have actually been realised and how much of them have actually contributed to creating a better safer more secure world a world that takes one hundred times more than it used to before it embarks on war and violence and the such and i think that if we were to compare we'd find very little to compare with those words and i think that that is the main problem in terms of the organization itself there's much much much to talk about and i'm sure that your guest who's written a book about this will allude to these but the problem is that the people of the world are bit by bit losing confidence in the body that is supposed to be actually speaking on their behalf before the powers of the world and not representing the military powers. at the account and at the expense of the people of the world the right time and so it's a very interesting comment from anas there i mean a lot of people say that the united nations represents the interests of the rich
powerful western countries and countries that have an enormous amount of military power in this let's look at resolution one nine hundred seventy three and as it deals with libya i mean this is supposed to be a piece speaking by your keeping the peace it seems more interested in violence these days. i certainly wouldn't say that nine hundred seventy three was the first step toward making leaders accountable thought is that countable for mistreating their people the justification for that was clearly humanitarian i certainly would distinguish that from what went on in iraq but the one nine hundred seventy three was a step toward protecting civilians exactly those people who figure in the charters preamble just to go back i'm certainly someone who's thrown enough stones at the institution over my analytical career but i think it's intriguing that in spite of all of the negative criticism of the body that this week.
we have seen every major head of state parade through and last week we saw. netanyahu versus us so the circus actually serves some purpose it's important to pull people together and if it were not why does everyone come to new york ok very interesting well if i can say with the term circus then it really was a sort of because because you know it here's a country that wants its own independence and it's one country the united states says no the most of the vast majority of the world want to see the palestinians have their own state but no one country can say no it's not going to happen go back and do your homework type thing is that democratic is that fair is that what this institution was supposed to be all about when it was founded in one thousand nine hundred five. well i know you want your guests to quarrel disappoint you all right i think you'll discover that tom waits and i are more like minded on this than you
would ever suppose ok one one purpose of the one very beneficial side effect of having this locus in new york is that the many countries in the world that can't afford to have diplomatic missions all over the world heritage there are a lot of countries hundred ninety three countries and you couldn't if you're a small poor country have a mission in every other country so it actually serves as a substitute for bilateral relationships with a lot of countries. the palestinian question is very complicated as you know there's a debate about the road map process and what was supposed to be. security issues and other vital issues in the last stage of that obviously. the arab spring has ignited new forces and the motions that formerly might have been more content to wait. i do think that there is something to be said for the circus quality in that every criminal head of state in the world who still in office gets to come up with complete absolute immunity every of september so you do have some real rogues
coming to town in new york like i did a job and they do use the the event to good effect for showing their flamboyance whether it's khadafi before camping out what kind of journey will reduce i mean you can't kid you turn that upside down and say it's a level playing field maybe that's one virtue of the united nations security general assemblies that everybody can show up i mean just because they're rogue or rogue for whom ok and this if i can go back to you again i mean how democratic is the is the united nations because this is the era now of democracy the arab spring everyone should have the same values they should be able to go vote they should have civil society we should have their authorities can hold them to accountability but does that really the fact because again you have a small number of countries that can say put a block on everything designed need to change. well just going back to the state that made that the only circus in town it may be so but that it's not saying much simply because most countries in the world don't have another platform on which to
be on that as you put it peter the level playing field i think we ought to address the realities of the reality is that in terms of democracy a very very little that is practiced in the united nations and with all due respect . i think that as much as you can talk about being rogue i think there are many many more including netanyahu himself i think that one of the problems of the united nations is the fact the many resolutions that it passed and particularly in the case of israel whenever taken on board when they were never adhere to and therefore the question becomes impose itself is it really how how much worth does the united nation pose how much power does it pose when the united states and the united kingdom my own country when they wanted to go to war in iraq when they felt that it couldn't be done through the united nations security council because of a veto from france and and other countries they just wanted to alone and they bypassed the united nations and the nations could do nothing whatsoever so it may be a talk shop and it may be
a talk shop where certain small countries can feel their work for that particular five or ten minutes that their leader speaks but in reality in terms of influence and power they have none whatsoever when you think about that thomas when the great powers have no use for the world body they just say well we'll go on our own and there's good and they can do it with impunity. the question is why did the united states and the united kingdom go to the security council in the first place there would have been an additional legitimacy had the security council approved they're going to war they did not that is the way the charter was written so that the major powers have a bigger voice and in fact the security council or the un in general was damned if it didn't that is control the united states britain and in the united states and britain or at least in certain government circles it was damned because the united nations didn't make saddam hussein behave. the united nations is
only as strong as the states who are part of it who decide to do something and the major powers have a bigger voice than the smaller powers that's the rules that's the way it's always operated that's the way it'll always operate while good enough truth is that good enough and the age of where everyone should have a voice and and have a legitimacy because they are right not just because they're powerful. well i certainly do to agree with tom that the security council's regime at least makes major powers come to new york to talk about whether force should be used so if you think kind of moral intellectual engagement is worth something the u.n. usually does fill that role fairly successfully but i would disagree with the assertion that that small powers are weak i have my own differences with how the general assembly operates it operates in clax and cliques it operates in groups that actually often decide the issue before they get to the general assembly but the south the group of seventy seven as it's called it's really one hundred thirty two countries it's the supermajority of the general assembly it can pass any
resolution it wants to without a veto so the south actually has an enormous voice in the u.n. sometimes that's a problem because when the s.g. the secretary general wants to reform a personnel system or redeploy money he always has to try to lobby the ga and that's ok right i'm going to jump in here we're going to go to a short break and after that short break we'll continue our discussion on the united nations with our. i. i i. i . nature and discover its beauty.
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dot com. welcome back to cross talk i'm peter lavelle to remind you we're discussing if the united nations is still relevant. and as i'd like to go back to something you said earlier in the program in looking at the charter of the united nations from one thousand nine hundred three was october nine hundred forty five and low in look what it does to. day did do you did really that document did you would think ever that the united states would i'm sorry the united nations be so involved in military conflicts of peacekeeping operations where the road record special particularly since the the end of the cold
war has been bit sketchy to say the least and i'm thinking of rwanda i'm thinking of what's going on in haiti and of course you know it's looking at maybe afghanistan and things like this i mean was the united nations ever really really built to be involved in that kind of thing i mean peacekeeping is when the war is over and you get on the get on the ground in libya they took a side they were the air force of a rebel group of people. reading the charts you'd like to think that war was going to be far more difficult to approach far more difficult at least. accreditation legitimization unfortunate that hasn't transpired then as you put the examples that you mentioned then i'd like to add to that mention iraq and because you mean the first part of to talk about iraq before two thousand and three and before the united nations was totally sidelined by the united states and united kingdom who had an agenda and wanted that legitimacy is thomas put in i totally agree with him but they couldn't get it so they went it alone and it really didn't
matter at all before that for thirteen years the united nations actually enforced sanctions on iraq the good used twenty five million people to beggars to people be below the poverty line so in fact you you sort of feel that the united nations rather than being that kind of international body that universal kind of elements that the whole world subscribes to in order to protect the weak it has become. and arrow in the arm of the powerful nations under which they can go to war they can impose any kind of sanctions regime they can reduce any nation to poverty and to being hungry and. it just basically doesn't add up and now i want to assess something quite important i'm not calling for the demise of the downfall of the united nations not at all i think that the world does need something to alternate from the kind of madness of the superpowers that we have today driven by mere
interest crass interest i think we do need that the united nations as it stands according to the kind of levels and hierarchy structures the veto system talk about many many other things i think it's not working and we need a serious reconsideration of exactly what it stands for tell me what you think about that i mean again looking at the charter it's more about protection of the sovereignty of states and that what we've seen since the end of the cold war is undermining the sovereignty of states or threatening to do so or we having western powers on the security council saying this person is no longer fit to rule is that what the charter was supposed to be all about i mean it sounds like it's a pulpit to lecture people go ahead. there was there is nothing that is not in the charter so whether we're talking about economic and social issues human rights going to war disarmament so it's a little hard to pin all of this down what i would have to say. in
contrast to our former speaker is that in fact the institution occasionally performs usually it does not this is not the result of the u.n. per se. dick holbrooke when he was alive used to say blaming the u.n. for many of the decisions is like blaming madison square garden for the poor basketball record of the new york knicks it's the people who inhabit the building who make the decisions the states who are responsible so occasionally they come together in the first persian gulf war in one thousand nine hundred one was one occasion in libya another occasion in between there were lots of dismal occasions on which no decisions were made but occasionally and i would say libya is the most recent example. what comes together is the politics the capacity the moral argument and the legal argument and there is action next door in syria
none of those happens to be present so there is no action it's hard to blame the united nations rather than its one hundred ninety three members ok well ruth i mean if we can stick with libya i mean look at nine hundred seventy three i guess we can agree or disagree on this in one form or another but a resolution was passed but it. nato's it was given a mandate because of the resolution to do far far more than what that resolution had to say and that is that a danger you find that to be dangerous no dangerous precedent our own will the great powers avoid that again that was just a one off thing because reading the resolution when what we saw happen the thousands of sorties that were dropped on libya that didn't seem to be part of the resolution and the united nations sanctioned that. well it's i think one of the great dilemmas in international politics and security affairs is it actually is very hard to persuade or coerce interlocutors to do things and could often has been a wily fox for a very long time and i think everybody would agree quite
a bad actor in fomenting terrible civil wars and west africa in making trouble in chad in the lockerbie bombing and he's just really been quite an irresponsible fella but it's true that. the security council language often is a bit fake that the degree of coercion that's necessary whether it's something like kosovo or libya is always unfathomable at the beginning of the campaign wars like peace or is always wanted more difficult than you expected to be but i do think that as and i think they cover did have it right that what's often at fault is the way the political system is organized i do think that there are changes one should make i do think that regional groups shouldn't vote as blocs the way they do because they like chicago clubhouses manage to coerce their members because all good things come from your original group so it's not an ideal masi and situation of reflection it's a very political system the politics could do some reform that's the politics of it
i mean and it's you know i don't think anyone on the panel here is going to defend mr qaddafi ok i certainly won't but just describe you could say that the great powers have done through the arab middle east for the last sixty years ok i mean you know go ahead. well that's exactly the point i mean the thing is i agree entirely i mean it's the united nation is not an entity that in itself creates these policies it's the powers that use the united nations that use the walls of the united nations and the system upon which the united nations is built to allow those powers to act in the way that they do in order to exacerbate the situations are many and to for further and promote their policies and you know i agree peter you know we can talk about the list of crimes are committed by saddam hussein and we would be right we could talk about the crimes of their feet and we would be right but what about the crimes of other nations particularly the nations that are seen as being respectable the nations that are seen to be beyond reproach those who
use the holes of the united nations to pursue their powers the problem is and this is where i talk about the united nations i criticize the united nations i say that because it's still embodies this kind of universal ality this kind of global. consensus global coming together and that respectability that is why it is being used and abused by those who have the political clout and the military clout and economic pressure in order to further their prove their policies which may at times be totally inhumane but give it that aura of respectability so in a sense the united nations is not doing what the charter said it should do. actually what it's doing it's helping you know certain wars certain interests being promoted in a crass uncivil totally brutal way but with an aura of respectability what do you think about that thomas i mean it it sounds like wait a minute i had no i was going to jump in i was going to contrast it seems to me
that i would totally agree with the two thousand and three pursuit of the iraq war it seems to me if we're talking about libya it's totally different i mean this time no state voted against the revival of searches but no state and voted against. you had regional support arab league gulf cooperation council african union you had to patients from small from a couple of arab states namely cutter and. it seems to me that this is really quite remarkably different from the two thousand and three iraq decision much more akin to what the charter visit in the first place and so i'm actually relatively sanguine i would say that in particular the un and the responsibility to protect is alive and well after libya much more alive and well than it was before when you think about thomas you wrote about the united nations
if i may peter jump in thomas you wrote about the united nations in reality in reality if we were to propose a hypothetical that tomorrow the united states of the united kingdom decide to go on a war and the united nations security council doesn't give that you know there's a russia or china or whoever vetoing that particular decision then they decide to step so the united nations and go to war regardless what can the united nations do in reality they can do absolutely nothing and that is where the problem is we were absolutely i agree with you in time to get it all done without thinking like a go ahead route jump in. yeah because i do think before we become meant to reduce this to a debate about whether colonialism still persists in attitude or fact one should not neglect the other half the other three quarters of the united nations which is doing humanitarian aid around the world where the united nations is the central organizing mechanism for the delivery of food aid for famine for post war conflict for post-war relief that the it's the many of the voluntary agencies of the u.n.
high commissioner for human rights the high commissioner for refugees the world food program are essential organs such just to to blaggard the u.n. using the security council as the only face of the u.n. whatever one's view of it is it's a real reductionism so in attacking the room for local roots i totally aware of collateral to agree with you ok i totally agree with you ruth but the guess want most of that's about seven eight is dropped on areas where was were allowed to happen in the first place ok thomas somebody had the last word on this program out of sixteen out of nations in a in a few sentences going at. well i i want to urge people to buy my book and thereby increase my relatives a problem with ridiculous trying to reform the united nations is trying to get everyone on the same page part of the book argues that in fact. you know the
ideal should not be the enemy of the good so the fact that we are not moving in syria should not make us sad about having done something occasionally in a place like libya it also talks about getting much more from those units that roots spoke about there are now remember the great we've run out of time folks very very good interesting conversation many thanks to my guest today in washington new york and in birmingham and thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.t. see you next time remember rostock will. continue to. review the latest in science and technology from the realms of. the future
to me that image of it is says it's hussein's huge popularity that means he's the best presidential candidate as the outlines the reasons he's stepping aside and not seeking a second. and information blackouts around the disputed checkpoint oldest border with kosovo where journalists all balled from recently erecting barricades now some major ports says the order to shoot anyone coming close to. the neverending story ovals to the green said brace themselves to get more talks. with the government of the nation tries to bring with its bid for a new bailout money meds. and not attempt to reclaim the revolution a gyptian once again gather on this time to protest against the rule of the minute treat you.